Mark Lee: Everyone said they wanted to slap me

Long Long Time Ago actor’s character called mean-spirited, unfeeling

Photos: Zara Zhuang, Golden Village, artistes’ social media
Photos: Zara Zhuang, Golden Village, artistes’ social media
16 Feb 2016

Photos: Zara Zhuang, Golden Village, artistes’ social media

The mark of good acting is getting the audience to love or hate your character, and it’s clear Mark Lee achieved that in Jack Neo’s 60’s kampung-themed comedy Long Long Time Ago, now showing islandwide.

“Everyone said they wanted to slap me because they thought my character was mean-spirited and unfeeling,” the actor explained during the movie’s thank-you lunch event, held yesterday at the Dancing Crab restaurant at Vivocity.

“But I told them, you should go after Jack before you come to me, because he was the director.”

The sharp-tongued 47-year-old was completely in his element playing the spoiled ne'er-do-well son of getai veteran Wang Lei who takes every opportunity to complain about the government. “Perhaps upbraiding people is my forte, especially if it’s done in Hokkien,” he said.

But Mark couldn’t bring himself to explain his more complicated dialect lines to his eldest daughter, Calista, 7, because of the anti-government content. “Over those two weeks (of mourning Lee Kuan Yew last March), whenever she read news about him she would feel proud of being a Lee,” Mark explained. “‘We also Lee, same surname,’ she would say.”

“So if I tell her I was complaining about Lee Kuan Yew (in Long Long Time Ago) she would ask, ‘Why? Did he do anything wrong?’ I can predict that’s what she would say.”

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Five million
Five million
16 Feb 2016

Five million

Jack and Mark have high hopes for the nostalgic feature — that it will earn S$5 million at the local box office — and both are confident even though the film has made just over half that amount from its February 4 premiere until Sunday.

“I think it’s been a bit slow,” Jack said. “Compared to Ah Boys To Men, it’s slow, but it’s a different genre.”

“Some people should come in (to watch Long Long Time Ago) after they’ve seen what they need to see,” he said with a laugh. He might have been referring to two other movies released here over the Chinese New Year period, Hong Kong crime comedy From Vegas to Macau III and Stephen Chow’s fantasy flick The Mermaid, which he and Mark both said was Long Long Time Ago’s strongest competitor.

Mark explained how the movie was a bit of a sleeper hit. It brought in about $1.6 million over the week since its premiere and another $1 million in the following three days. “(The publicity is driven) by word of mouth, and people want to find out why I ought to be hit,” he said.

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No royalties
No royalties
16 Feb 2016

No royalties

From February 4 to 14, Long Long Time Ago earned S$2.7 million across 59 screens in Singapore, but not everyone got a slice of the pie.

Aileen Tan, who plays the woebegone female lead, Zhao Di, revealed she did not receive a separate fee for her work on the movie because she’s an actress on a full-time contract with Mediacorp; neither does she expect royalties no matter how well it performs at the box office.

“It’s on a by-show basis,” she explained her situation. “I don’t even know my own movie fee — I didn’t ask about it! Honestly I go for the quality of the roles and my connection with the director.”

“My life is complete, I’ve gotten the roles and the awards — Star Awards Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes — and now I’ve made it to the big screen.”

Aileen endured a personal mishap in the form of a chipped tooth for the duration of filming. And though she agreed it let her blend in with her onscreen family and made her look the part of the downtrodden eldest sister, she said she has asked for something in return from Melvin Ang, executive director and CEO of mm2 Asia, one of the film’s distributors.

“I told Melvin, if the movie does well he has to give me a big angpow, because I’ve spent more than $7,000 so far fixing this tooth.”

Long Long Time Ago is presented by J Team Productions, mm2 Entertainment and Golden Village Pictures, and is showing islandwide. The second part of the movie will premiere at the end of March.

Click on for more photos from yesterday's event! 

Jack Neo
Jack Neo
16 Feb 2016

Jack Neo

Jack Neo's Long Long Time Ago featured a cameo appearance by Henry Thia (left)

(L-R) Benjamin Tan, Bharathi Rani, Charmaine Sei, Ryan Lian
(L-R) Benjamin Tan, Bharathi Rani, Charmaine Sei, Ryan Lian
16 Feb 2016

(L-R) Benjamin Tan, Bharathi Rani, Charmaine Sei, Ryan Lian

Charmaine Sei and Ryan Lian
Charmaine Sei and Ryan Lian
16 Feb 2016

Charmaine Sei and Ryan Lian

Charmaine and Ryan made their film debut in Long Long Time Ago

Bharathi Rani and Benjamin Tan
Bharathi Rani and Benjamin Tan
16 Feb 2016

Bharathi Rani and Benjamin Tan

Yesterday happened to be Bharathi's birthday too and she celebrated the occasion with her co-star Benjamin.

Some of the cast of Long Long Time Ago
Some of the cast of Long Long Time Ago
16 Feb 2016

Some of the cast of Long Long Time Ago

Related:
6 numbers to know for Jack Neo’s Long Long Time Ago 
Aileen Tan chips tooth, but filming for Long Long Time Ago goes on 
Jack Neo and Mark Lee reunite for new film Long Long Time Ago 

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